Wisdom and Rubies – by J. F. Slattery
Eminent criminal barrister Adolphus Winterbourne had been worried about his godson Arthur before but when he discovered that the young man was in Clerkenwell prison on remand for suspected burglary, he got quite a shock…
It is 1829, and burglary is a capital offense. But Arthur’s brief stay in a London prison on a mistaken charge is only the first in a strange series of interlinked events into which he and Lord Horatio Carlton, his friend and fellow student, are inextricably drawn – events involving every aspect of London life: its journalists and politicians, its artists and scholars, its idlers and gamblers, its burglars, confidence tricksters and pickpockets. Meet George Marshall, irascible editor of The Morning Indicator and his striking print workers; Colonel Henderson and his Indian wife, whose greatest ambition is to walk in a London street without a veil; Oliver Morris and Lieutenant Peterson, on leave from Madras, whose friendship ends in violence and death; and above all, Frank Hoskins – charming, talented, kindly Frank, receiver of stolen goods and police agent, whose career spirals down into robbery and murder. Once Arthur and Horatio lived a life of jokes and laughter but as events unfold they find the shadows of tragedy closing in around them. Only a desperate plea to Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary and founder of the new Metropolitan Police Force, will avert disaster.
When, twenty-five years later, Mr. Winterbourne takes up his pen to write an account of these events, he wonders how he is to do it…
Based on actual police reports of the period, Wisdom and Rubies is an engaging fictional account of a vital period in English social history.
A sequel to ‘Wisdom and Rubies’ will shortly be published, entitled ‘The Scapegoat’. It will be a story of mutiny on a ship returning from China and a subsequent trial for murder, based once again on real events of the period as reported in the newspapers.
Author J. F. Slattery was born in Essex, England in 1950 and is well educated in social history, German literature and philosophy. His research into nineteenth century London is impeccable. He successfully draws his readers into the time period with tales of police/authority, accounts of murder (crime/punishment), religious differences, old customs like dueling and portrays the attitudes and experiences within the full spectrum of London society.
His cast of characters are large in number, are well defined and their conversations, letters, poems, songs and quotes are clear and concise. They draw you into their lives and story.
Great descriptive characters. I especially liked the description of Lord Horatio being excessively intelligent, profoundly sane, not a dreamer but “enthralled, not by imagination, but by reality”. Having said that I like this my mind went to whether this author is a dreamer or not.
I liked the character named Arthur (Lord Horatio’s companion) who “felt some momentary excitement, wondering what a thought–experiment could be”. When Professor Gottschlegel asked his class “think of a wall” and Arthur’s vision of the wall was …”about six feet high, quite new, the brick not yet to discoloured, and on the other side – out of view, but he knew it was there – was a summerhouse.”
The language and mind set of these London times represent a man’s world but not without a few colorful characters like Madame Anastasia “a shrewd, tough Russian who learned her trade among the aristocracy of St. Petersburg.”
Given the title of this book, I would have been disappointed if the author had not quoted through his character Horatio from Proverbs 8:11.
Although the genre is fiction the book is based on actual events so he instructs his readers to “consult ‘The Times’ of 1830” for the actual cases. It is the opinion of this reviewer that every reader will find their own way in this book and come away with something or many things that he or she can relate to.
Theodocia McLean endorses Wisdom and Rubies by J. F. Slattery for the intellectual reader who enjoys reading historical events as they pertain to society, impact on individuals and perhaps a comparison to how far we have come or not come within some societies today. I found this book extremely interesting and thought provoking from the perspective of someone who is not familiar with nineteenth century London. Review date August 2014.